First established in an elegant Edwardian house, on Durban’s vibrant Florida Road almost 30 years ago, the Elizabeth Gordon gallery is one of South Africa’s leading commercial art galleries. Here, we talk to Elizabeth Gordon, the gallery’s owner, about its history, her favourite artists, the gallery’s relationship with the Oyster Box Hotel, and some of the ideas behind several of the works displayed.
What is the raison d’être of the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery?
“The Gallery prides itself on housing a selection of African art – not only South African art – as there is a wealth of African artists who converge on South African soil.”
Is there an artist that you’re particularly proud to exhibit?
“One of our most notable artists (his works can be seen throughout The Oyster Box), is a Sudanese artist called Hussein Salim. Hussein left the Sudan as a refugee and lived in various European countries, pursuing his art career whilst simultaneously yearning for Africa.
“Fortunately, he was offered a sponsorship to do his Masters at the University of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, and has since settled in South Africa. He is now a full-time artist and lecturer in Arts at the University. Hussein’s paintings are a dialogue between different cultures and represent his strong feeling that art must be used as a tool to help initiate this dialogue. His richly textured canvases employ an extravagant layering technique to create a dense impasto feel.”
Do any of your artists showcase South Africa’s stunning wildlife?
“A wonderful wildlife artist is Barbara Siedle. Travelling extensively through Africa, she combines her love of the bush with a search for inspiration.
“Apart from her paintings, her ‘illustrations’ as we refer to them – which are basically the heads of the various species of animals and birds – have proved very popular with visitors. This is most likely due to the fact they make great mementoes to take home if visitors have spotted an exotic animal on their travels.”
What ties do you have to the Oyster Box hotel?
“The gallery has been closely associated with the Oyster Box Hotel, even before it became part of the RCH group, so I was delighted to be able to supply paintings chosen by Toni Tollman for the hotel. We handle their framing needs and any repairs or restoration when required.
“There are also several artists of ours who feature prominently at the Oyster Box. One of these is a Zimbabwean artist, Hugh Mbayiwa, whose work is extremely popular with both South Africans and visitors. His work is colourful; it has a naïve quality about it, and he manages to capture the essence of rural African living.
Are there any exhibits that force the viewer to think?
“The oeuvre of Scott Bredin is dominated by urban, industrial and rural landscapes. In these, he often deals with places that would not be considered worthy of aesthetic attention due to the environmental impact of human beings on the landscape. I’ve seen many visitors dwell on these works.”
What surprises most people at the gallery?
“Perhaps that Karen Fortune’s pieces, which fall under a hyper-realistic genre (with ultra-fine detail) can evoke so much soul. She is passionate about our land and enjoys capturing Southern African landscapes, old houses, farm buildings at people as work.”
A serene retreat lapped by the Indian Ocean, The Oyster Box is the perfect place to appreciate artworks from the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery, and discover a range of unique antiques in the property.
Images Courtesy of The Elizabeth Gordon Gallery